China suspends approval for nuclear power plants

 Published: 3/16/2011 7:40:05 AM GMT
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China has suspended approvals for proposed nuclear power plants and is making a comprehensive safety check of its existing ones after Japan's nuclear crisis.

The announcement by the state council, or cabinet, was the clearest sign yet that the crisis at the nuclear plant in north-east Japan would slow China's ambitious nuclear expansion plans, which are by far the world's largest.

The state council meeting chaired by the premier, Wen Jiabao, told Chinese residents that they had nothing to fear about radiation drifting from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

But China's own nuclear power plans would come under tougher scrutiny, said the account of the meeting on the government's website.

"We will temporarily suspend approval of nuclear power projects, including those in the preliminary stages of development," the statement said.

"We must fully grasp the importance and urgency of nuclear safety, and development of nuclear power must make safety the top priority."

The state council called for use of "the most advanced standards" to proceed with a safety assessment of all nuclear plants under construction.

"Any hazards must be thoroughly dealt with, and those that do not conform to safety standards must immediately cease construction," the statement said.

The state council said it had detected no abnormal levels of radiation in China from Japan. Chinese experts had concluded that wind would scatter any radiation from the crippled Japanese plant over the Pacific, the meeting account said.

"This will not affect the health of our public," it said.

China wants nuclear power to play a big role in its plans to cut dependence on coal over the next decade and local governments across the country have been vying for the investment, jobs and kudos that the new plants would bring.

China is building about 28 reactors, or roughly 40% of the world's total under construction, and the central government has fast-tracked approvals for nuclear projects in the past two years.

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